We assess the prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV) and cofactors for cervical severe disease, as contribution for vaccine strategies at the right moment in which Brazilian health authorities have approved an anti-HPV vaccine. A case–control study was undertaken with 201 women who attended a public health service with previous abnormal cytology. The HPV status was ascertained by consensus primers My09/11 and typed by 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, and 58 specific primers. Patients diagnosed with high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (HSIL) and cervical cancer were referred as cases (n = 84). Patients with normal/inflammatory cervix or carrying benign cervical lesions were included in controls (n = 117). The overall prevalence of HPV infection was 75.6%, with 91.7% among cases. In spite of HPV 16 being the most frequent type (53.3%), 27.6% of infections were attributed to nonvaccine types. High-risk HPV were strongly associated to older women (OR = 6.7). Otherwise, age at the first intercourse (OR = 7.10), three or more parities (OR = 3.05), abortion episodes (OR = 4.80), and smoking (OR = 3.83) conferred a heavy effect in younger women. Among mediators affecting the progress from HSIL to cancer, age played the main role in easing the progression (OR = 1.09, P = 0.002) followed by education level (OR = 4.20, P = 0.066). White ethnia showed to be a protective factor (OR = 0.32, P = 0.055). Predictors from HPV exposure to malignant disease include demographic and behavioral factors. Public policies such as improvement of education and continued prevention campaigns might contribute to reduce this picture. This work also gives background, in identifying a target population, for implementing future vaccine strategies.